Expectations, per usual, are high for the Westview football team. That is nothing too new, as the Knights have not posted a losing record since a 5-7 mark in 2005.
Each season, the Knights have been led by a different unit. Last year was the defense, anchored by a vast number of experienced seniors, who have now graduated. The new unit is populated by many younger — albeit talented — players making their first steps as starters or contributors on the varsity squad.
With much respect for the JV coaches and their ability to ready young players for the next level, and a full summer of practices behind the team now, coach Nick Gehrts is confident in the new group’s ability to succeed against varsity competition.
“Every year new guys have to step up. This time isn’t anything different, and we’re excited because we’ve seen guys with a lot of energy ready to do what they can.”
The 2019 offense, according to Gehrts, has more returning talent than previous seasons. Last season, the Westview staff could tinker with lineups and create more in-depth schemes with experienced leaders on the defensive side, this season he hopes the coaches on the offensive side can do the same.
“It allows us to do a little bit more because a lot of the guys already know their roles, what we want from them, and we can keep adding,” he said.
Senior lineman Levyn Santillan is particularly excited for the run game, which he believes will be amongst the most physical in the state.
“We’ve got a great running system, and I don’t think anybody in the Valley is going to be able to take that over,” he said.
The Knights have been the class of the 6A southwest region for years, winning 46 straight region games without a defeat dating back to 2010 and making the playoffs nearly every season in recent memory. The competition will be fierce as ever in 2018. Nearby Tolleson and Westview boasted winning records last year and bring back plenty of talent, and Westview defeated Valley Vista by a single point at the end of the 2018 regular season.
Gehrts downplayed the streak, saying it is great to reflect on but nothing more than a past record. Santillan, though, said the seniors hope the winning run lasts at least one more season.
“It’s a lot of pressure. We (the senior class) don’t want to be the group that lets it (a region loss) happen,” Santillan said.
However, the region games will not come until the last few of 2019. For those to matter, they have to have success early in the year, as well. And, the Knights play a familiar opponent to get the season started: Desert Ridge. The two have developed a bit of a rivalry in recent years. Westview upset the Mesa school in the 2017 playoffs, but the Jaguars stormed into Avondale to open the 2018 campaign, handing the Knights their lone home loss of the season.
Those who have been around the Westview program seem eager to exact a bit of revenge on August 30.
“I have history with them. I want to win against them because they got us last year, so it should be a good one,” Santillan said.